Etsy Expands: What Welcoming Bigger Business Means for the Handmade Mecca

Etsy OfficeWhen Etsy was launched in 2005, the online market devoted itself to the sale of handmade and vintage items. Particularly known for its wide variety of and high quality handmade products, Etsy recently announced that it is changing its policies to allow sellers to work with manufacturers, hire production assistance, and use fulfillment services to create, sell, and ship their designs. While for some high volume sellers this means the ability to stop turning down orders, many merchants on the site – as well as buyers who treasure Etsy’s handmade ethos – are responding with dismay and resistance to the changes.

An Etsy Identity Crisis

By changing their seller policies, Etsy has found itself in the midst of a kind of identity crisis. What sets Etsy apart from other websites if their sellers no longer need to handcraft each item? A coherent image and identity are central to the success of a business, and a shift away from that identity can have dire results, particularly for smaller businesses who have staked their cachet on a specific unique quality. Indeed, some sellers have left Etsy in response to this policy change. It is yet to be seen whether this may be ultimately counterbalanced by increased sales by larger sellers who are taking advantage of the new policy. For a well established business like Etsy, however, this evolution, while risky, is far from the end of the road.

Transparency Matters

As part of the policy changes Etsy has made, the company has also made a move towards greater seller transparency, at least in relationship to the larger company. Product designers will be required to disclose information about the manufacturing process and other information about the outside staff used to create and ship their designs. If this kind of transparency extends to buyers, Etsy may have an easier time maintaining its reputation, but it remains unclear whether buyers will be privy to these disclosures. Transparency is a highly valued quality of businesses and helps companies build trusting relationships with their customers. With these new policy changes, a turn towards greater public transparency could be just what Etsy needs.

What does transparency mean to you? Do you let customers behind the scenes of your business?

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Bird Pilatsky is a PhD student in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Emory University. A graduate of Smith College, with a B.A. in English and the Study of Women and Gender. She works as an archivist and research assistant with particular interests in LGBT issues, disability studies, and literature. Bird also works as a summer camp counselor. She has worked as an art & layout editor, runs an active blog, and enjoys reading, running, and rollerskating.

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